Pamela Taylor and the issue of incarceration

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I took a quick break last evening to visit with friend and art activist Pamela Taylor, whose exhibit of paintings opened at IAMA Coffee House just outside the Pearl on Broadway.

Called “Confinement (In)Justice: A Dichotomy” it aims to call attention to the unparalleled rate of incarceration in the United States.

Here is a bit more about Pamela – I cherish her friendship and encourage you to get by IAMA this month to see her work.

Pamela Taylor, M.S., a San Antonio native, is an abstract expressionist painter whose work is intense and chaotic, symbolizing her personal pain and concern about society”s increasing tolerance of inequality, harassment, and intimidation, which has created an environment of incivility in schools, workplaces, and politics. She is the Co-Founder of Dress for Success San Antonio and Founder of Career Gear San Antonio, workforce development non-profit organizations serving the disenfranchised; Taylor served as CEO for nearly 14 years. While there, she worked directly with inmates of Bexar County Jail for 2 years. Taylor has been featured in the San Antonio Express News and local media on numerous occasions and is a survivor of domestic violence. In 2011, Taylor spoke about her ordeal in a TED Talk at Trinity University.

Confinement (In)Justice: A Dichotomy will be on display at The IAMA Coffee House from June 28-July 26, 2016.

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Summertime at the Studio – Dyeing to Share

DSCN2548I told Rosemary Uchniat on Saturday that putting together a video from her dyeing workshops was always no-fail because the pictures were consistently  bright, artistic  and colorful! Just look at that drying rack – wow!

Despite the fact that Rosemary had laryngitis, she persevered and taught a spectacular class to rave reviews! What a trouper that woman is.

Small Space Dyeing with Rosemary – the Video:

And on Sunday, the Show and Tell sharing session was just as colorful in every conceivable way with many different media. Some folks presented their work, some just soaked in all of the vibes, and some said they came specifically to steal ideas! Maybe I should change the name to Show and Steal.

Take a look at some of the very creative things that the Show-ers and Tell-ers brought in, and feel free to steal like an artist!.

Show and Tell always sparks discussion – there were some especially good ones yesterday, everything from art activism to construction technique to poetry as creative inspiration. It’s such a pleasure and privilege to host these once-a-month gatherings at Lyn Belisle Studio.

July is going to be a quiet month – I’ve kept the Studio Calendar free from workshops and lessons (even Show and Tell) so I can explore my own work while developing new ideas. If you have workshop inspirations, send ’em along!

I’ll blog from time to time, of course, especially when I find great stuff to steal, show, and share! Stay cool, y’all!

summer cocktails

 

 

 

 

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Face it – this clay don’t need no kiln

faces

One thing is for sure – the number of faces that came into the workshops on Sunday and Monday were a lot fewer than the number of faces that went out. The energetic and enthusiastic workshoppers must have created hundreds of little air-dry clay people – and not just human faces – there were 3-D molds, insects, cats, and one persona that looked like creepy Chucky (that one became our mascot).

chuckie

The object was to explore ways to use no-fire clay – to make original and iconic clay face shards and other dimensional components without the need of firing in a kiln.

We concentrated on four areas:

  1. How to make reverse press molds with both two-part silicone and with air dry clay
  2. How to use the molds with various kinds of air-dry clay to make a dimensional object
  3. How to finish the surface of the dried clay faces with walnut ink and metallics
  4. How to use those finished components in mixed media projects

The key to success is to embrace the imperfections inherent in the air-dry clay – those cracks and irregularities give the pieces the illusion of heritage and a wabi-sabi touch of imperfect beauty. You can see what I mean from our video – every picture tells a story, every little face has a secret history – hopefully not Chucky’s:

 

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Summer Solstice Studio Party with Pablo Solomon

This is our fourth year together! The annual Solstice Party with Pablo and Beverly Solomon is always delightful. This year, Pablo premiered his new paintings, which are filled with color, energy, and his iconic female figures.

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In his artist talk, Pablo discussed how the act of painting can represent a cathartic release of emotions that speak to certain people on many levels – almost like a secret code. The multi-talented artist also described his love for ecological stewardship and recycling old materials into re-invented art.

I invite you to share their Solstice celebration in the video, below – thanks, as always, to Pablo and Beverly! And today, as is our tradition, we get to go junk shopping with them for new art fodder!! Hooray, YeYa’s, here we come!

 

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Lessons in metal from a master teacher

I will never again underestimate the artistry that goes into a pair of earrings designed by nationally-known artist Dale Jenssen – her skills are impressive. She taught two days of detailed metal jewelry techniques at the Studio this weekend, and her students produced some amazing work (see the video, below).

I have been a fan of Dale’s for years and have collected some of her work – earrings and a treasured mirror – but working with her gave me new insights into her talent and experience as a designer and craftsperson. She provided an array of materials for students to choose from, then led them through the process of cutting, finishing, and assembling their pieces using tools like the drill press, grinders, punches, and wire brushes. It was cool!

Dale’s metalwork is featured in Artful Home as well an  in galleries and public and private spaces through the United States. Here are some of her iconic sconces. She also does custom work and special commissions. I am profoundly grateful to her for sharing her skills with us!

Sconces by Dale Jensses in Artful Home

Sconces by Dale Jensses in Artful Home

Wasp Sconce by Dale Jenssen

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Five friends learn composition, collage and beeswax

My friend Mary James organized a great private workshop for five friends at the Studio yesterday afternoon. We worked with vintage photos and beeswax. I really hadn’t worked with anyone but Mary before, but I loved every one of the participants! They were enthusiastic risk-takers – some first-time artists, some  with art backgrounds – all great students!

We followed my usual teaching sequence – explaining the AB3’s of composition, arranging the visual elements accordingly, layering and fusing wax and stamps and foil and – of course– spraying walnut ink to accent the incised lines. Some people brought photos of their grandmothers and mothers to work with – beautiful.

They got it all! You can see the incredibly individualistic results in this short video. Fun! Thanks, everyone, stellar work!

On being an artist ~ a gift from Cecelia

This whole experience has brought a whole new consciousness to the meaning of creativity. My awareness is that it is not a gift that was arbitrarily handed out to some lucky people. It is an inherent quality, which for good or ill, is constantly manifesting in every moment for everyone. ” ~ Cecelia Britton


On Sunday, the rain fell steadily on Beacon Hill, and artists were scrambling to find sheltered spaces in old fire stations and community centers for the annual Art Walk. The crowds were sparse, spirits were damp. Why the heck were we doing this? Why work many hours doing our best work for so little reward? Grumble.

When the show was over and I was back in my little Boston home-away-from-home, I discovered this astonishing essay in my email from friend Celelia Britton, beloved therapist and intuitive artist. She prefaced it with, “Dedicated to you, sweet friend.”

I love what you wrote, Cecelia, because it’s dedicated to ALL of us who are searching for (and finding) meaning through artistic creativity. After reading this, I resolve never to grumble again about being an artist and a teacher. Cecelia, thanks for giving me permission to share this personal and inspiring account.


Cute little girl drawing with pencils at lesson

Being an Artist
Cecelia Britton

   The energy in the studio is palpable. Anticipation brightens the eyes of the participants.  Excited chatter ripples in the air as we survey the space.  Individual supplies are arranged like dinner place settings around a large table in the center of the room.  Bins filled with art supplies line the perimeter.  Covering the walls and looking at us from every direction are samples of Lyn Belisle’s work- presentations of years of teaching, as well as her own personal endeavors. 

    Can I really do that? I question, as I survey multi-media collages, some similar to what we were to learn today.   

   I want to learn that, I’m thinking, as I see and touch fabric art in the form of spirit dolls and wall hangings. I am amazed at the many paintings in mediums of oils, acrylic, watercolor, and pencil.  Sculpture, displayed alone as well as incorporated into textured art, boxed collections and free-standing art pieces on shelves make up a plethora of creativity that inundates my senses.  I appreciate the range of expertise around me. I am buoyed by Lyn’s confidence that by the end of the day we could each proclaim we could draw!

    Me, an artist?  the voice in my head questions. My life experiences roll out in front of me, each frame declaring the opposite.  I am reminded of the many times my attempts produced nothing I wished to share or ever see again. 

    Like ghosts of Christmas past, I see my grandmother’s Crayola lesson instructing my four-year-old self to color in tiny circles, in the lines, colors only of a traditional reality.  No purple trees or orange houses allowed, thank you very much.  Her critical eye watches me follow her demonstration.

   I am in a new school.  An icy gray Alaskan winter hangs heavily outside the fluorescent lighting of the classroom.  Second graders are required to draw airplanes for this art assignment.  I observe the boys in the class, most likely future architects and engineers, gleefully and confidently launch into the project.  The intimidation of actually drawing something that could be identified as an airplane, paralyzes my ability to proceed.  I do not know how to move my hand across the art paper in front of me.  There are no models to copy and in that moment, I cannot even conjure up the memory of the plane that brought my family to Anchorage a week ago.  The prospect of failure makes me queasy as my stomach clutches anxiously.   The shame of the low grade it earns glares down at me as it is displayed around the room, an indictment of my failure as an artist.

    I receive a gift certificate as a Christmas present for a sculpting class at a local museum.  My forty-five year old self has spent the previous twenty-five years raising children, moving around the country with my husband’s career, and then helping him pursue his dream of having his own business.  I am initially excited about stepping into exploration of new territory.  On the first day of class I discover, as introductions are exchanged, that I am the only student who is not making a living as a professional artist.  I immediately feel intimidated and my heart sinks.  To my dismay, I am will not be using my hands to touch and mold the clay as I had imagined.  Instead, I will be removing clay from my block with a knife to reveal the model’s body within it.  I look around at the realistic likenesses the other students are producing.  I can’t wait to destroy the evidence of my ineptness as soon as I complete the course.

     As we are about to start Lyn’s class, this reverie of self-condemnation comes to an unceremonious halt.  I have dropped my graphite pencil from my supplies and as I lean too far to retrieve it, my chair tips, toppling me to the floor in a dramatic thud.  After assuring myself and others in the room that I have no pain or injury, I smile inside as I realize what message I have given myself.  A more heralding positive voice is attempting to gain my attention.  I listen to the prompt to stop my negative self-talk.  I decide to give full attention to the present moment. I resolve to allow my seventy-two-year-old self to simply experience the learning, letting go of needing approval from myself or others.

    The hours seem to evaporate throughout the afternoon.  I move through each phase of my art piece in appreciation.  I do not feel intimidated by the efforts of others in the class.  Lyn moves through the room, a butterfly pollinating her flowers.  I welcome her experienced eye as she assists me in my composition.   Even though my own pace is generally slower and measured, I relax any frustration about the press of a definitive class schedule.  I am proud of not only the technical skill of my piece but also what it reveals about me during the show-and-tell at the conclusion of the day.

    Now, I have a small and eclectic gallery of art from seven different classes.  I have been moving each piece around my home so I can experience where each would like to live.  The original trepidation has no say or sway over how I feel.  My friends report that I look like a woman in love, literally glowing with the pleasure of each artistic experience.  Pure child-like joy has replaced the old internal tapes of self-loathing, shame, and competitive envy that characterized my sense of an artistic self.           

    I have reached some conclusions about the nature and meaning of creativity.  My awareness is that it is not a gift that was arbitrarily handed out to some lucky people. It is an inherent quality in everyone, which for good or ill, is constantly manifesting in every moment in the unfoldment of life.    Art is the process of consciously bringing forward my own inner landscapes.  Technical skill cannot define it and should never deprecate it.  It’s simply a learning curve.  

   I can grow because art, by its nature, is about evolution. What is conceptualized may find varied avenues into meaningful expression.  What comes out through all art-culinary, canvas, lenses, pages, sculpture, flower arrangements, and beyond-is Spirit informing me where my attention is.  If I can allow myself to hear that Inner Voice in a climate of curiosity, there are a wealth of treasures possible.  I might be expanded, entertained, awed, and possibly fascinated by an Alice-in-Wonderland complexity of my psyche. I may unearth nightmares available for healing, latent talents, suppressed feelings and emotions, or unknown dreams.     

    If I regress into old thinking, I am emboldened enough and have the capacity to laugh in its face, knowing that I have nothing to fear in the process of knowing myself.  It is, after all, fodder for my next expression. It is not unlike the broken jewelry, leaves, sticks, scraps of paper, cut-outs from magazines, etc.-all formerly considered junk-now repurposed in the next project.  I am ecstatic about my journey. This road to my authentic self is rich with satisfaction and worthy of my exploration.  My inner child agrees and is giggling with delight that I have responded to her beckoning to come out and play.

 

Cute little girl drawing at lesson and smiling

 

 

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Kintsugi and Boro – fusion and inspiration

Celebrating the imperfect, the time-worn, and the re-invented resonates deeply with me, probably because I am a combination of all of those things. That’s why the Japanese arts of Boro and Kintsugi are so appealing. Boro, a Japanese word meaning “tattered rags,” describes lovingly patched and repaired cotton bedding and clothing used much longer than the normal expected life cycle.

Boro is enjoying a revival among fiber artists who treasure its indigo blue color and melange of textures and subtle patterns. In fact, the Fiber Artists of San Antonio are offering a Boro workshop taught by Mary Ruth Smith in July.

A Japanese houshold Boro textile

Linked to Boro by concept is Kintsugi, meaning “mended with gold.” It refers particularly to the Japanese method for repairing broken ceramics with a special lacquer mixed with gold, silver, or platinum.

The Kintsugi process usually results in something more beautiful than the original.

The Kintsugi process usually results in something more beautiful than the original.

Both Boro and Kintsugi are interwoven with the philosophy of wabi-sabi, which means “to find beauty in broken things or old things. ” See why I like this stuff so much?

So today at the Studio, I was putting away materials from our Citrasolve and altered paper collage workshop, and I started thinking about torn paper scraps (Boro) mended with gold (Kintsugi). I printed out the word “kintsugi” and began arranging Boro-like tatters of paper (they would probably have been dumped in the trash) onto 8×10″ pieces of archival mat board.

Then, inspired by the gold veins of Kintsugi, I “mended” the spaces between the scraps with gold leaf. It was amazing how fast time flew – I created five of these collages in about four hours. They almost pieced themselves together.

Here are the five collages – #3 is my favorite because it looks most “Boro-like.” These pieces are destined for the Beacon Hill Art Walk this Sunday, but when I come home from Boston, I’m going to continue to explore the idea of gold-mended tatters and the beauty of imperfection and re-invention.

Mended with Gold #1 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #1
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #2 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #2
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #3 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #3
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #4 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #4
Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #5 Lyn Belisle 2016

Mended with Gold #5
Lyn Belisle 2016

 

 

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